Wizards

Ex-Vols coach Fulmer entering Hall of Fame

Ex-Vols coach Fulmer entering Hall of Fame

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Even after Tennessee fired him in 2008, Phillip Fulmer always assumed he would coach again.

``I absolutely did,'' Fulmer said. ``I totally did. That's all I'd ever done, and I'd done it very well.''

Four years later, Fulmer still hasn't returned to the sidelines.

Though he hasn't closed the door on the possibility of a comeback, it seems less likely with each passing year. The latest signal of potential closure comes Tuesday when Fulmer is inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, an honor that generally comes after an individual has completed his career.

Fulmer will join former Miami coach Jimmy Johnson, former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum and 14 former players in getting inducted at a National Football Foundation awards dinner in New York. Coaches must have served at least 10 seasons and 100 games while posting a winning percentage of at least .600 to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Coaches under the age of 70 must have been out of coaching for three years.

Fulmer, 62, says it hasn't sunk in that he's about to become a Hall of Famer. After all, he's younger than most of the other Hall of Fame coaches were upon their induction.

``I'm graciously accepting it,'' Fulmer said, ``but I'm too dang young.''

The honor has provided him an opportunity to reflect on his career.

Fulmer, who lettered as an offensive guard at Tennessee from 1969-71, won nearly three-quarters of his games and posted a 152-52 record at his alma mater. He coached Tennessee's first three games in 1992 while Johnny Majors recovered from heart surgery, then took over the program for good at the end of the 1992 regular season and remained in place through 2008. Tennessee won at least 10 games in nine of those years, including a 1998 national championship and a 1997 Southeastern Conference title. The Vols finished in the Top 25 in 13 of his 16 full seasons on the job.

``The consistency is what we were all about,'' Fulmer said. ``We tried to surround the team with a family kind of atmosphere. We did it all together - one for all, all for one.''

Fulmer's crowning achievement was the 1998 championship season.

Tennessee went undefeated that year and clinched the national title with a 23-16 Fiesta Bowl victory over Florida State. Tennessee won the championship despite having to replace eight overall draft picks and three first-round selections, including 1997 Heisman Trophy runner-up Peyton Manning.

``In a lot of ways, that team felt challenged because everybody didn't give them a chance to repeat as (SEC) champions or even have a really good team,'' Fulmer said. ``I think they bonded. They worked really hard. To be honest with you, I probably had three or four other teams that were physically better than that team. It's just one of those things where the stars don't line up. You have a tough loss somewhere along the way and you didn't quite get it done, and that team did.''

The national title capped a four-year stretch from 1995-98 in which Tennessee went 45-5.

When Fulmer looks back, he doesn't focus on individual games and seasons so much. He takes the most pride in his overall body of work.

``I had a fantastic career at one school, which is unheard of,'' Fulmer said. ``It being my school made it even more special.''

Tennessee's consistent success during the Fulmer era represents a major contrast from the instability that has hit the program since his departure. Lane Kiffin replaced Fulmer and stayed only one season before Southern California hired him away. Derek Dooley succeeded Kiffin and was fired Nov. 18 after going 15-21 in three seasons. Tennessee hasn't won more than seven games in a season since going 10-4 and capturing an Eastern Division title in 2007, Fulmer's second-to-last year.

Fulmer remains confident that Tennessee can win consistently again. He agreed with athletic director Dave Hart's comments at the press conference announcing Dooley's dismissal in regard to the challenges facing Tennessee. He has faith in Hart's ability to deal with those obstacles.

``I think Dave Hart really does get it,'' Fulmer said. ``He's a guy that is strong (enough) to lead our program out from where we are.''

Although Fulmer still refers to Tennessee in the first person, he hasn't ruled out the idea of coaching elsewhere. Fulmer said he's had chances to return, but he only wants to coach again if he finds an ideal situation. The opportunities he's received haven't been tempting enough to get him to spend that much time away from his family.

As he waits to see if the right coaching opportunity ever comes along, Fulmer works in the investment business as a partner at BPV Capital Management.

``I am competing every day,'' Fulmer said. ``I'm not nearly ready to retire. I'm just competing in another way.''

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Wizards notebook: Backing Bradley Beal; Downhill for Decker

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Wizards notebook: Backing Bradley Beal; Downhill for Decker

Back to back Beal?

Losing rarely leads to awards. The Wizards lost Monday in Indianapolis, 109-101. They also rallied from 25 points down to pull within one at 98-97 with 4:45 remaining. The comeback against the Pacers occurred with no John Wall (ankle) from the start and sans Otto Porter (knee contusion) after the opening seven minutes.

Lineups included a player making his Washington debut, combinations rarely used and a scoring Kelly Oubre, who shined for the locals with 23 points in one of his more controlled performances.

They also included the newly minted Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Bradley Beal’s work Monday puts him in line for a repeat performance especially from those that consider leadership in the equation. Beal finished with 30 points, 19 coming in the second half as he played the final 24 minutes. He wasn’t peak efficiency (10 of 27 field goals, four turnovers), but the All-Star battled when crawling into a hole made sense. Beal had two of his three steals in the fourth quarter and finished 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.

Quick reminder: The Wizards lost for a second consecutive game heading into Wednesday’s clash with the Celtics. 

Pacers center Myles Turner dominated inside with 26 points, 12 rebounds and five emphatic blocks. Ex-Wizard Bojan Bogdanovic had 22 points. All five Indiana starters, none named Victor Oladipo, scored in double figures. 

Like many of Washington's opponents, Indiana knocked down shots from deep (10 of 20 from beyond the arc). The Pacers, tops in scoring defense, held the Wizards to 8 of 23 (34.8 percent) from the field in the fourth. 

Tired legs and minds hurt the cause late, but the shorthanded Wizards fought back. This isn’t amateur hour so simply trying doesn’t deserve praise. That the Wizards struggled in that area for chunks of this season makes such performances worth noting, as does the team following Beal’s lead. Keep this up, but pick up wins -- three games this week against the Celtics, at Nets, vs. Lakers -- and perhaps Beal earns another award.

Dekker hustle

It’s also downhill from here for the newest Wizard. Seriously, Sam Dekker, what’s the encore after the team goes on a 19-0 run after you enter for the first time in a Washington uniform?

The 6-foot-9 forward only finished with two points. We don’t take plus-minus seriously most games so that plus-20 is more oddity than reality of the situation. Still, we received a sneak peek at what Dekker could offer going forward once he learns the system, his teammates and gets back into game shape. This marked his first game action since suffering an ankle injury Nov. 5.

Dekker, who added two steals, runs the court with ease and offers energy from the forward position. It’s conceivable he falls outside the rotation most nights when all are available. Then again, if the former University of Wisconsin keeps running the court, his play might eventually badger head coach Scott Brooks into finding him minutes.

 Where art thou Okaro White?

Word came Monday morning that Wall would not face Indiana. Seeing as he acknowledged giving it a go in Saturday’s loss at Cleveland was probably a mistake considering his overall physical condition, cool. 

Around the same time, we found out that rookie swingman Troy Brown Jr. and forward Okaro White would remain with the Capital City Go-Go. The G-League squad plays in Arizona Tuesday.

That meant the Wizards would only have 10 active players in Indiana, a group including Sam Dekker, who only officially joined the team over the weekend. Reminder: Dwight Howard remains sidelined and the 15th roster spot sits empty. 

Perfect world Washington might not use more than nine players in a game so no whoop. As observers of this team know, there’s no such thing as a perfect world this season.

Sure enough, foul trouble struck Tomas Satoransky and Markieff Morris early, as did Porter’s injury. Other than Dekker’s 10 minutes and seven from Ian Mahinmi, Washington effectively used a seven-man rotation.

Nobody would dare suggest having Brown, White or either of their two-way players (Devin Robinson, Jordan McRae) available changes Monday’s result. Brooks might have bypassed all especially the kids. The G-League exists to offer players like Brown and Robinson a place to get in on-court work. It’s also how a team supplements its roster when needed. 

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Five observations from Wizards' loss to the Pacers despite Bradley Beal's big night

Five observations from Wizards' loss to the Pacers despite Bradley Beal's big night

The Washington Wizards lost to the Indiana Pacers 109-101 on Monday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. Another loss: The Wizards just can't seem to put together a full, 48-minute performance, a collective effort good enough to beat a team that isn't among the worst in basketball. On Monday, they saw a Pacers team that despite missing Victor Oladipo is still very good, and they fell short of what could have been an epic comeback.

The Wizards stormed back from down 25 points, only to collapse in the final minute and get outscored 11-4 to close the game. The final result was another loss, their second straight. They are 11-16 on the year with the Boston Celtics up next on Wednesday.

The defeat spoiled another big night from Bradley Beal. He had 30 points, the fourth straight game he's dropped 27 or more. 

2. Otto went down: The Wizards found themselves in a tough situation on Monday with only nine available players after Otto Porter Jr. left in the first half with a right knee contusion. John Wall and Dwight Howard were already out, meaning the Wizards were down three starters. Markieff Morris then got into early foul trouble, giving head coach Scott Brooks a real dilemma.

Though Porter's injury doesn't seem serious, the Wizards can ill-afford losing anyone right now. It's worth a reminder that, as bad as the Wizards have started this season, they have done so with few injuries to blame.

3. Oubre came through: Not long after Porter went down, Kelly Oubre Jr. stepped in to fill the void. He had one of his best games of the season with 23 points, five rebounds, three steals, and a block.

Oubre shot poorly against the Cavs on Saturday, but overall he has been playing very well lately. This was the fourth straight game he's reached double figures and the third time in that stretch he's scored 19 or more.

In addition to scoring, Oubre did a lot of the things Brooks wants him to do. He drew an offensive foul, brought down two offensive rebounds and forced a few turnovers. Oubre's best attribute is his length and his ability to cause havoc defensively, especially off the ball. He came into this game sixth in the NBA in total deflections and second in deflections per 36 minutes.

4. Dekker debuted: The lack of options for Brooks detailed above and the lopsided score at least brought one positive and that was the debut of Dekker, who checked in with just under four minutes to go in the third quarter. 

Dekker actually played fairly well considering the circumstances and happened to help key a nice little run for the Wizards. Washington closed the third quarter on a 13-0 run once he came in. On one play during that stretch, Dekker got a steal and then finished with a dunk on the other end.

The run with Dekker on the floor extended to 19-0 in the fourth quarter and kept the Wizards within striking distance the rest of the game. Maybe Dekker was the missing piece all along.

5. Turner is good: For the second straight game, the Wizards had no answer for an opposing big man. Last game it was Tristan Thompson, this time it was Myles Turner. 

Turner had a huge first half on the defensive end and found his scoring groove in the second half. He had a monster stat-line of 26 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks.

The strategy for opposing teams at the moment appears to be to attack the Wizards in the middle, knowing they are just trying to make do with Thomas Bryant and a collection of small-ball fives. Teams may keep doing that until the Wizards stop them.

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